SharePoint Server 2007: A Collaboration Lock-In
Your customers will love Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 for its powerful collaboration capabilities. You'll love it for its recurring revenue stream.
- By Joanne Cummings
- July 01, 2007
Ask Microsoft partners what's driving Office 2007 sales and they might mention the suite's new ribbon interface or its fully integrated XML functionality. Odds are, though, that they're more likely to peg Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 as the main engine driving their customers to upgrade.
MOSS 2007 is Microsoft's key collaboration and content-management platform. It lets your customers build their own intranet, extranet and Web applications. They can build those apps with rich content-management, workflow, forms and business intelligence (BI) capabilities. The tight integration between MOSS 2007 and Office helps your customers reap the benefits of enterprise-class collaboration while still working within the familiar environment of Office or their favorite browsers. Those factors should make the move to MOSS fairly straightforward for most of your customers.
While MOSS 2007 offers a standard framework for building secure Web-based applications, your customers can easily customize it to fit the specific needs of any organization. Once your customers begin using MOSS 2007 regularly, they'll quickly realize that a little customization can go a long way toward unifying their business and simplifying collaboration. That's where you come in. If you can help turn those customization dreams into reality, you're bound to be busy over the next couple of years as more organizations move to MOSS 2007.
Combine and Conquer
MOSS 2007 is the official combined upgrade of both SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) 2003 and Content Management Server 2002. MOSS 2007 still has the capabilities of both, plus several important new features. MOSS is built on top of Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0, which is bundled into Windows Server 2003. WSS 3.0 uses OS and database services to support Web applications such as workgroup team sites, enterprise portals and extranets.
MOSS extends those capabilities with six primary business functions, which include collaboration, portals, enterprise search, enterprise content management (ECM), workflow/electronic-forms management and business intelligence. Here's a closer look:
Collaboration: MOSS 2007's collaboration feature set got a major Web 2.0 facelift. It can now handle RSS, blogs and wikis as well as shared workspaces and tasks. MOSS lets your customers create and control their own collaborative workspaces, manage projects with project list templates, visualize task relationships and project status with automated GANTT charts and coordinate teamwork with shared calendars, alerts and notifications. It also lets Office 2007 users view team calendars and presence indicators from within Outlook and enables instant messaging among team members.
Company: Microsoft Corp.
Release Date: January 2007
Price: Pricing for MOSS starts at $4,424. Standard client access license (CAL) is $94; Enterprise CAL is $75. (Licensing for Enterprise Edition functionality requires both Standard and Enterprise CAL.)
Web site: www.microsoft.com/sharepoint
Portals: MOSS' portal framework lets users build personal, intranet or extranet sites tailored to individual users or audiences. Because MOSS is so tightly integrated with Office and Active Directory, your customers can base portal personalization on a user's directory access rights and privileges. This capability lets content owners decide how, when and where specific audiences can view their data. The portal also contains a feature called My Site, a personal dashboard-like site in which individual users can assemble summary views of their personal information.
Enterprise search: Enhanced search is a big improvement in MOSS 2007. It can now search for common enterprise repositories and file types, as well as individual users and experts. For example, your customers can now search file shares, Web sites, SharePoint sites, Exchange Public Folders and Lotus Notes databases. They can also index, search and display data from line-of-business applications, relational databases and other structured content using the new Business Data Catalog (BDC). The BDC acts like a universal data connector for MOSS. Since most users list things such as hobbies or certifications in My Site, the search can also find people based on their areas of expertise and common interests.
Enterprise Content Management (ECM): Document management is key to the ECM capabilities in MOSS 2007. Your customers can consolidate content from multiple file shares and personal drives into a centrally managed repository or SharePoint library. Before they check anything into a library, however, they first need to tag it with metadata. Doing so facilitates consistent categorization and lets them search information using the MOSS 2007 enterprise search tools. The ECM features also include integrated records management so that users can impose expiration policies, audit trails and even legal holds on critical business records. ECM also provides traditional Web content management, which should help ease your customers' Web publishing tasks.
Workflow/Electronic Forms Management: MOSS has built-in workflow templates to automate the approval, review and archiving process. It also lets your customers create, maintain and analyze custom workflows with a new tool called SharePoint Designer 2007. MOSS also lets users build customized electronic forms using InfoPath Forms Services. Even non-MOSS users can fill out these forms using a standard browser. Another major change in MOSS 2007 is that forms are all XML-based, which provides greater Office 2007 integration, data reuse and management.
Business Intelligence (BI): A new feature called Excel Services packs all the BI punch of MOSS 2007. Excel Services lets your customers place interactive Excel spreadsheets into portals, dashboards and scorecards. They can also designate security and access levels at the server. MOSS 2007 comes with built-in Web Parts, which are small portlets that let your customers add BI capabilities to different personal and team sites. They include dynamic key performance indicators (KPIs), Office Excel 2007 spreadsheets, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services reports and a collection of business data connectivity Web Parts that can visualize information residing in back-end line-of-business applications.
MOSS 2007 has many competitors, but few that compete in every area that MOSS covers. For example, some tools handle shared workspaces and workflow but don't cover ECM. Others offer ECM but not portals or BI. The closest competitors include IBM Corp.'s Lotus Quickr and Oracle Corp.'s WebCenter Suite. You'll need to know these two when positioning MOSS 2007 for your customers.
In January, IBM announced Lotus Quickr, software and connectors designed to help teams collaborate and share business content such as documents and rich media. It's aimed at providing more comprehensive collaboration and enterprise content management for IBM users of Notes, Domino and WebSphere, but it supports Windows and Microsoft Office apps as well.
Lotus Quickr's connectors integrate with Notes, Windows and Office. It also includes a set of content and team services like wikis and team blogs, as well as SharePoint-like secure content libraries. Following is a summary of key features:
- Lotus Notes Connector lets users open and save e-mail attachments directly into document libraries or team workspaces. When composing e-mail messages with attachments, users are prompted to move the attachments to shared content libraries and send links rather than unnecessary attachment copies. They can access the content libraries from the Lotus Notes 8 sidebar, providing drag-and-drop access between Lotus Notes applications and Lotus Quickr content stores.
- Lotus Sametime Connector is built with open Eclipse technology, IBM's open source development tool. This lets users navigate through content stored in Lotus Quickr libraries and share content within an instant-message session.
- Microsoft Windows Explorer Connector lets users navigate through Lotus Quickr content using the Windows Explorer or "My Documents" interface. They can also drag and drop files and entire folders.
- Microsoft Office Connector lets users open and save Office documents directly into libraries or team workspaces. Check-in and check-out features let them lock documents, block others from making edits and ensure version control in a collaborative editing process.
- RSS capabilities include RSS/Atom feeds that let users share and post Lotus Quickr content to a variety of RSS-enabled applications, including Firefox and FeedDemon.
Lotus Quickr also includes several application templates. For example, it has a brainstorming template that helps organizations formalize idea sharing and gathering with people inside and outside the organization. Users submit ideas, receive and track feedback and monitor the status of their suggestions as they move from concepts to reality.
Oracle announced its WebCenter Suite in October 2006. Like MOSS and Quickr, the WebCenter Suite is designed for unified access to business applications, structured and un-structured content, business intelligence, enterprise search, business processes and communication and collaboration services. However, it's aimed primarily at Oracle's installed base. It requires that users have Oracle Application Server Enterprise Edition in place.
The WebCenter Suite has six major components:
- Oracle WebCenter Spaces is a configurable work environment. WebCenter Personal Spaces are where users can perform structured and free-form tasks, organize their daily activities and interact with other users. WebCenter Group Spaces lets groups of any size share information and handle distributed work processes.
- Oracle WebCenter Services are Web 2.0 content, collaboration and communication components. These include Oracle Content Database, Oracle Secure Enterprise Search, an SIP-based VoIP and instant messaging presence server, a discussion forum and a wiki service.
- Oracle WebCenter Anywhere lets users connect and work from anywhere. It exposes critical task flows and services through familiar mobile devices and desktop tools, including Microsoft Office and Exchange.
- Oracle WebCenter Composer is a browser-based environment for composing and customizing application user interfaces, business rules and policies, user profiles and preferences and business processes.
- Oracle WebCenter Framework is aimed at developers. This component lets developers embed rich, AJAX-based components, portlets and content into Java Server Faces (JSF) applications. It supports portal- and content-integration standards including JSR 168, JSR 170 and WSRP 2.0 and will interoperate with standards-based portals, including Oracle Portal.
- Oracle WebCenter Studio is also for developers. This exposes the WebCenter Framework and WebCenter Services to programmers inside Oracle JDeveloper.
WebCenter Suite became generally available in February. It's licensed as an option on top of Oracle Application Server Enterprise Edition, and costs $50,000 per CPU.
Although IBM Lotus Quickr and Oracle WebCenter both attack the same business problem as MOSS does, they do so from different angles. MOSS leverages key Microsoft tools such as Office 2007 and SQL Server. IBM and Oracle focus more on open standards and their own users. For example, organizations that don't use Notes may not get the full benefits of Quickr. Similarly, non-Oracle users would hardly look to the pricey WebCenter Suite as their first choice for a collaboration platform.
Sales and Marketing
As usual, you'll find plenty of sales and marketing tools for MOSS 2007 on the Microsoft sites. The best place to start is the MOSS 2007 overview page, where you can download a free trial version, do an online test drive and review all the features and functions. There are also links to download more in-depth information, including the data sheet and product guide.
Another good place to check out is the Migration and Upgrade page. You can see exactly how best to get current SPS or CMS customers up to speed on MOSS, and, from there, learn how to frame your sales presentations. You'll find several white papers addressing various migration issues, along with some webcasts, including "Preparing for Web Content Management with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007" and "The Evolution of Web Content Management in the 2007 Version of Microsoft Office."
Microsoft is also offering new licensing terms for Certified and Gold Partners to ensure that they get up to speed with MOSS quickly and inexpensively. You can examine these new terms at the Microsoft partner Web site.
The Final Word
The biggest terms today are "Web 2.0" and "collaboration"-and Microsoft has a strong contender for both in MOSS 2007. It combines several key tools-collaboration, portals, enterprise search and content management-as well as offering BI and workflow/electronic forms capability.
MOSS 2007 promises to streamline your customers' internal collaborative efforts. It also lets them bring in team members from outside the organization to facilitate real business-to-business collaboration.
MOSS 2007 is based on Microsoft applications, so your customers don't need to learn a new interface. Because some of its key features rely on tight coupling with Office 2007, it could spur people to upgrade to the latest version of the office productivity suite.
- Integrated collaboration tools, including shared workspaces and tasks, plus support for Web 2.0 features such as RSS, wikis and blogs
- Portal framework that can scale from individual personalized sites to large extranets
- Enterprise search function that handles multiple file types and even data resident in line-of-business applications
- Full-featured Web content management, document management and records retention capabilities
- Built-in workflow templates, customizable workflows and integrated XML-based electronic forms
- Excel Services and Web Parts enable key business indicators located in Excel spreadsheets, SQL Server databases or other business sources to be culled and presented in personalized dashboards based on user group and security levels
- IBM Lotus Quickr
- Oracle WebCenter Suite
- Open source tools such as Alfresco and SocialText
- Provides fully integrated collaboration, enterprise search, enterprise content management, portals, workflows and business intelligence capabilities within one centrally managed product
- Leverages Microsoft software most organizations have in place, such as Office, SQL Server and Internet Explorer
- Easily tailored to support specialized business applications and projects
The best part for you and your customers is its customizability. As your customers become more familiar with MOSS 2007, they're bound to look to you for continuing customization and integration projects. That means the next couple of years are bound to be busy for partners well-versed in MOSS 2007 and all its possibilities.